Blessed Are The Listmakers

Righto. Let’s get on with it.

As always I’m squirming after writing such an emotive entry. Do you people realise how lucky you are? (Insert smirk here.) Because year after year I keep letting it all hang out for the masses, documenting every bad mood, every tantrum and ill-considered rant despite the fact so many people are watching, many of whom I know.

It’s a love/hate relationship with blogging. Each entry is a snapshot of a sliver of time in which you might not necessarily be at your most articulate. You put it out there then leave yourself vulnerable to all sorts of feedback. And quite often by the time you hit the Publish button, you’ve written yourself out of the crappy mood anyway.

Nevertheless, it’s invaluable to have a record of a rollercoaster journey. You can see the patterns of behaviour. For example, you can see parallels in my recent behaviour to how I felt two months after I moved to Scotland – bleak thoughts, overwhelmed, unmotivated, hopeless, teary, excessive self-pity… excessive self-deprecation to disguise the self-pity. Back then I quickly identified this as potential depression, going on my previous episodes. But because I caught it so early on, I kicked into preventative action right away.

The night I posted the last entry, I couldn’t sleep and was just lay there doing that crying-quietly-in-the-dark thing and wondered what the hell to do. I felt the fog was rolling in and I didn’t have control of my life or emotions. I considered going to the doctor and asking for anti-depressants. I wanted to wave the white flag and cry, Yep, I’m back down here again. Someone please help me back up!

But then I realised why I felt so goddamn awful. I simply stopped looking after myself. I’d let a few weeks of holiday indulgence drag on for another three weeks once I got back home. After that one jetlagged Body Pump class, I’d only done two more classes in three weeks. I ate a tonne of chocolate and toast and cheese and assorted crap. Yes, I was feeling so miserable to be back in Scotland and all the issues in the last entry — but I had exacerbated and prolonged the problem by letting my physical health slip.

That may sound simplistic to you, but this is how it works for me. My mental and physical health go hand in hand. After much trial and error I finally figured out that regular exercise and healthy eating were just as effective for me as the loony pills. Actually, more so. As soon as I am looking after my body and getting the happy chemicals flowing, I am able to cope with challenges. It clears the fog, instantly boosts my self esteem, helps me see solutions to problems, and gives me the energy to take action.

So I wasn’t going to surrender. I’d caught it early again and I knew what I had to do. The more you know yourself, the quicker you can fix yourself.

Sunday afternoon I went for a run with the Scottish Companion. Good lord, I was shite! I’ve barely run at all since the Race of Life 5k in June because of my knee injury. At 4.30pm it was already dark and freezing and they hadn’t turned the lights on in the park. But we walk/ran for fifty minutes, me huffing and puffing and trying to find the light button on my stopwatch. After awhile I was so hot, my skin burned and I had to take my gloves off. But it was fucking brilliant! Aside from an occasional dog walker, the park was quiet and empty. I just lost myself in the sensation of making my body do what it’s meant to do. Running is such a sensual experience compared to being in the gym with a squawky instructor. It’s all fresh air, trees, icy wind blasting your face, screaming muscles, and the amazing feeling and rhythm of your legs just striding out over and over.

And it totally worked. Fifty minutes and I felt like my mojo was back.

I’m determined to get things in order. For the past three years I’ve used small Moleskine journals as an organiser, writing down all my lists of things to do, goals, recipes, story ideas, overhead conversations, travel details, important numbers in one handy place. I’d just filled my third up last week, so I’ve got a brand new empty one. It’s all rather symbolic, yo. The last one covers August 2004 til now, including trips to the Baltic States, Spain, USA, Australia, plus 5k training notes, journalist’s phone numbers and three weddings worth of To Do lists. Looking back through my scribbles I know it was the most incredible year-and-a-bit of my life. As many of you commented, I have had some non-fat achievements. But now I have a new book and all those empty pages to fill with new goals, ideas and adventures.

On the first page I’ve already made a list of all sorts of things I want to do, both specific goals and lofty dreams.

It was an all-action weekend, really. We have been DIY-ing like mofos to turn our spare room into a study. The Scottish Companion works from home, but his office has been the couch. Which means there’s no separation of his home/work lives, leading to major frazzlement. And also, I’ve been longing for a quiet space to shut the door and do some writing when his pals are over. SO, we painted the walls, bought a desk and bookshelves and big leather executive chair that looks like the kind of thing an movie villain would sit in and stroke a fluffy cat.

The transformation wasn’t a quick process, especially when SC forgot the 5-litre paint pot was sitting on top of the step ladder when he moved it, launching Dulux Natural Straw all over the door, wall, ceiling and the one patch of carpet we hadn’t covered. Oh yeah, and on SC’s head and crotch (HILarious!). But the hard graft was deeply satisfying in a nerdly DIY sort of way. It’s finally starting to feel more like our home, instead of me just visiting SC’s Grotty Student Digs. Now I can’t to settle down and get on with my writing goals.

So things are looking up, huzzah!

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18 thoughts on “Blessed Are The Listmakers

  1. This sounds great! (Love the study!) I totally agree with you on the physical/emotional health going hand in hand. I’ve come close to going back on anti-depressants in recent months, but for me I am NOT clinically depressed, I just need to take care of myself and it makes a world of difference in my emotional health when I take care of the physical. When I feel crappy, I eat crappy, which makes me feel crappy, and it’s a vicious circle. Once I snap myself out of it and do what I know I need to do, all is well again. Exercise and vitamins…. hehe just don’t tell Tom Cruise.

  2. What a beautiful entry–and one more reason for us out there to love you. It also reminds me how TOTALLY right you are to say that when we take care of ourselves (eat right, exercise) we feel SO much better. I should get back to that. In fact, tonight I’m going to try a yoga class, see how I’m doing. And tomorrow morning, on to spinning! Thanks for the reminder.

  3. cheers cristina! 🙂

    donna, well said deary! i think tom cruise is a fuckwit. for anyone reading, don’t think i subscribe to his philosophies on anti-depressants. they really helped me out of a hole back in the day, giving me the energy and focus to figure out the OTHER ways of coping. it took many years to figure out how to manage it on my own. it gets easier every time because i see the signs so much earlier.

  4. Here, here! I really needed anti-depressants several years ago and they helped me too, just to drag me out of that hole I was in so that I cared enough to just go on. After a few years I found acceptance of my situation and other ways to cope and weaned off of them. I know I’m not in that same place today, so when I get depressed now, I know it’s not clinical, it’s just short-term feeling mopey. And yes, Tom Cruise is a fuckwit.

  5. Isn’t it amazing how wonderful you feel after a little bit of exercise. I have just come back from my morning walk and, although it is a really humid day already (at 6:30am) and I am sweating like crazy, I feel great!! I feel as though I can tackle the world and whatever it throws at me. My thoughts are clear, my body is a little sore and my view of the world is much more positive. All that after a 40 walk up and down hills – not bad hey 🙂

  6. Not sure what to say, except… hrm. How to put it. Taking care of yourself does do a lot of good, no question. The thing is, when you were feeling bad, it sounded like you had a lot of big issues down there that you hadn’t sorted out, and that even if you feel better, they might just be sitting down there waiting to kick your ass. (Grain of salt time: I seriously might be projecting. You may take this or leave it; I have no idea what I’m doing, much less what anyone else is doing.) You probably don’t need happy pills, but a little pro-active work at some point on dealing with the big issues doesn’t hurt, either. You have gone through some MAMMOTH things here, and the weight loss is only one of them. Moving to a new country, marriage, dealing with the root causes of your insecurity… big, big things. Might not hurt to work through that stuff in a private journal or with a therapist.

    I’m glad you’re feeling better, sweetie. Sorry I’ve been such a putz lately and haven’t kept up! ::huggles::

  7. Nice to hear you sounding a bit chirpier. Well done on that run – I just can’t imagine it being so cold that you need to wear gloves to go for a run!!

    Your journal sounds great – I LOVE diaries and lists… Good on you for recognising all the non-weight things that you have accomplished recently too. There are those of us who could only dream of achieving what you have 🙂

  8. Whooo Hoooo for the return of the Mojo. And for showing us that if we write down what we feel and do every day it is an invaluable tool to track trends and patterns. Good on you for stopping the spiral in its tracks.

    And, like you, I have just started my new notebook. Instead of the pre-printed mass produced one I had been using, now I have a gorgeous red leather one, with a special pencil and I feel so much better about it. Am loving red at the moment LOL.

    Hope you have a great day

  9. Have you ever made a flowchart? Seriously. My husband and I are realizing we need a flowchart type thingy to keep track of our various different options right now, as we juggle figuring out BOTH of us going back to university but magically still having enough money for the mortgage on our flat, and you know, food and stuff.

    Glad to see you two are doing some “nesting”. It really makes a difference, like when you reorganized the kitchen after moving in.

  10. Well done on getting those endorphins flowing. I think you are right about exercise. My boyfriend has had severe clinical depression – really bad – for years and although he has been on lots of different anti-depressants, nothing has made the difference that regular exercise does. (And it’s handily side-effect-free, too.) At the moment he’s unmedicated and, though not entirely cured, a lot better.

    Of course some people find anti-depressants very helpful. But what we’ve found is – if you _can_ sort out your general situation, even a tiny bit, that can help to get you back on the upward curve. Not at all easy to do if you’re depressed, especially alone, but even a tiny step helps.

  11. This was a great turn around. I’m happy to see how you turned this into a positive. Really happy also that you have gotten yourself active again, now if you could only help me do the same? 😉

  12. I read a quote the other day, something about how if exercise came in a pill, it would be the most prescribed medicine in the world. Definitely true. Good to hear you are on top of things. Can’t wait to read more about these writing projects 🙂

  13. Have to start off with: tom cruise is a fuckwit. Ahh… that feels good. Okay, now.

    No lecture or sermon or advice from me- just a comment on what you are experiencing and how I view it when comparing my life experiences. People like you- I like- a lot. I love people who are in a constant state of evolution- instead of focusing on the negative of feeling like you are having an identity crisis, I would focus on the positive- you are allowing yourself to question who you are and what you truly want or feel. Instead of stuffing your emotions and feelings with food- they are free to surface! Everything must feel irritation in order to improve or grow- like the oyster- it takes constant rubbing of sand to produce that pearl. And, I believe, people who question are the most interesting people around. Good on ya!

    Fig.

  14. I never feel better than I do after coming in from a run or a bike ride. Just being out in the fresh air makes me feel so alive. It’s one of those chicken-and-egg things, though: when you’ve lost your mojo, it’s tough to get up the energy to go out there and try to get it back. Keep it up!

  15. Your run sounded delightful! And oooh, organization! Lists! The lure of empty pages!

    Brings back memories of the first day of school and all those lovely, new supplies. I still love the smell and feel of fresh paper. 🙂